It’s crazy to think that we are nearing the end of the first bimester here in Guatemala. On the one hand, it feels like I just got here. On the other, I can’t believe I have done so many new things and been so many places in such a short amount of time.
Photos from Zone 1 - The National Palace and Metropolitan Cathedral
A few weeks ago I went with a friend to Antigua, the former capital of Guatemala located less than an hour from the city. Antigua is a major tourist destination for both foreigners and Guatemalans alike, and for good reason. The streets are made of cobblestone, the buildings are small, colorful, and feature many antique architectural details, and the view of Volcán de Agua from the city is absolutely stunning. We ate a traditional restaurant, where I first tried rellenitos, plantains stuffed with black beans (which are surprisingly delicious!) We visited the central park, which felt like jumping into a painting of colonial Guatemala. We also drove to the top of one of the surrounding mountains and saw the vista desde el Cerro de la Cruz (the view from the cross). However, my favorite part of Antigua is the Catedral Metropolitana, built in 1543. The building was breathtaking, especially the open roof, which appeared stunning under the sunny sky. We also went under the Cathedral’s floor to a small vigil and a few large rooms of some unknown use. Parts of the Cathedral have been destroyed by earthquakes, but the ruins only emphasize how long the Cathedral has been there and how many people must have visited it. I took about 100 photos in the Cathedral alone, but you really have to see it for yourself to imagine how spectacular it is.
I spent another Sunday in Iximché, a former Mayan city located just outside of Tecpán. Iximché is in the mountains, where the air is fresh and quiet, and the wind is both tranquil and ominous. The ruins at Iximché, which include temples, palaces, and pyramids, date back to the fifteenth century. It is incredible to think that such structures were built so long ago with no modern technology. It was even cooler to stand next to them, touch them, and even climb on some! We were even able to see a Mayan ritual involving prayer, candle lighting, and an offering of some drink. It was a very peaceful and pensive place, a wonderful day and a nice break from the busy city.
I also had the incredible opportunity of going to Mexico! I spent several days in Mexico City at a seminar for Fulbright ETA grantees in the region. The seminar was very informative and interesting, and it was great to talk to other ETAs about their experiences. Although most of our time was spent in the hotel and library, on the very last day, the other Guatemala ETA and I visited the Zócalo, the main plaza in Mexico City, which were very beautiful. The Cathedral and National Palace were huge, and the Cathedral especially was stunning. We even had the chance to go inside the Palace, where we viewed murals painted by Diego Rivera and visited the National Museum. Although I was happy to return to Guatemala, I definitely saw enough of Mexico to know that I need to go back someday!
This past weekend I went to my very first ballet, “Romeo and Juliet,” performed by a Russian Ballet Company. The dancing was incredible, and it is a pretty cool thing to watch a story told without any dialogue. I also got a very exclusive 360 degree view of the city from the National Theater, which was incredible despite it being misty outside.
In re-reading this I realize that I’ve used words like “stunning,” “incredible,” and “beautiful” excessively, but there really aren’t words strong enough to describe some of the sites I’ve seen here. So take a look at the photos, but imagine them even more stunningly beautiful in person.